Where Did You Hear This: How Priming Can Affect Your Everyday Life

post by Liam Goddard · 2020-12-09T18:40:06.983Z · LW · GW · 6 comments

The power of priming [LW · GW] is well-known to affect many decisions you make in your life. If you see a briefcase, you will become more business-oriented and more competitive; if you see the phrase 911, you will contemplate terrorism when making political judgments. But as much as priming can affect how you look at things, it becomes even stronger when you're looking for the first time.

Throughout most of my childhood, I absolutely hated "oldies" songs, which essentially meant anything written before I was born. Worst of all were those awful songs from the 70s that my dad was always playing, which were called "rock" because they pounded your head with screeching antimelodic madness. I would flee the room in terror whenever my dad put on a record.

Then, a few weeks ago, I watched Guardians of the Galaxy for the first time. The main character, Peter Quill, or Star-Lord, is obsessed with his "Awesome Mixtape" of old 60s and 70s songs. You would expect me to run from the movie screaming. But not only did I keep watching, I liked the songs a lot. Somehow, these songs that I would have normally despised, when introduced to me through a superhero series that I loved, were suddenly amazing music, which I soon began to listen to in my free time.

It occurred to me recently that I wasn't evaluating the music on its own. Marvel is cool, therefore anything associated with it is cool. My dad is uncool, therefore anything associated with him is uncool. An entire web of culture develops [LW · GW], linking things and people emotionally. Steak is Republican. If you are Republican, you will like steak. If you are Democrat, you will not like steak. Unless, of course, a Democrat has already tried steak and liked it before they learn that it is Republican. But even then, they will be at risk of changing their mind.

Until now, I had prided myself on being analytic, having a critical mind, and being capable of choosing objectively, from the facts instead of the parties. Yes, I prefer Democrat to Republican, but I won't let that make all of my decisions! I have some Republican views! But if I encounter a new issue, will I be able to think about it on its own merits? Will I let the facts choose the party, or the party choose the facts?

I would hope that I could choose impartially, and ignore the decisions of my culture. But even now, now that I try to ignore the source and pay attention to the lack of musical quality, I still love to sing along to the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack.

Bias is stronger than you notice.

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comment by ChristianKl · 2020-12-10T19:34:19.456Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The power of priming [LW · GW] is well-known to affect many decisions you make in your life. If you see a briefcase, you will become more business-oriented and more competitive; if you see the phrase 911, you will contemplate terrorism when making political judgments. But as much as priming can affect how you look at things, it becomes even stronger when you're looking for the first time.

We are in 2020 right now and everybody who kept up knows that most priming research didn't replicate. 

Replies from: Liam Goddard
comment by Liam Goddard · 2020-12-11T00:00:07.113Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Could you explain which research you're referring to?

Replies from: ChristianKl
comment by ChristianKl · 2020-12-11T10:55:00.496Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The replication crisis. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03755-2 is a nature article from last year about it with nice quotes such as:

It is one of dozens of failures to verify earlier social-priming findings. Many researchers say they now see social priming not so much as a way to sway people’s unconscious behaviour, but as an object lesson in how shaky statistical methods fooled scientists into publishing irreproducible results.

comment by shminux · 2020-12-10T08:25:16.082Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

And MWI, Bayes and Timelessness are associated with rationalist contrarianism.

comment by seed · 2020-12-10T09:48:02.003Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wonder if it has something to do with age-related hearing loss. I remember when I was a teen, rock music sounded like antimelodic screeching to me too, but I listened because my friends liked it, and I liked the lyrics. Now the same songs sound like legit music to me. Maybe it's because our hearing range shrinks with age, so the high-pitched sounds become quieter and the song doesn't sound like screeching anymore.

Replies from: Raemon
comment by Raemon · 2020-12-10T10:05:57.934Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This seems like the opposite of what my stereotypes imply (that teens are more likely to like things that sound like "not-music" to their parents).